April 3, 2017

Brand bidding and Australian Affiliate Programmes

Addressing a weakness in Australian Affiliate Marketing

The Affiliate Marketing industry in Australia is seeing a period of high growth. We’ve released the Affiliate Marketing Handbook and industry events are becoming the norm, mirroring the UK and the US. All progress toward this industry gaining the traction it deserves.However, like the other markets had, we have a problem with brand bidding and it's time that Advertisers, Agencies and Networks worked to create a cohesive approach: Bidding on the search terms of advertisers (Brand Bidding) without their explicit permission will lead to removal from affiliate programmes and Affiliate Networks.There are plenty of well policed programmes out there, but a huge number that that aren’t. In the last week I’ve removed more than 3 affiliates who commenced paid search activity without permission on the programmes of Navigate clients and noticed this activity on several non-clients.Below is an example of a brand + discount query for an Australian retailer I found yesterday (brand and publisher names have been redacted). I found 4, yes 4 affiliates bidding on the discount terms of this retailer.

Brand bidding on Google

Figure 1 Brand bidding in action

The effects:

  • The accidental authorisation of affiliate ‘brand + discount’ activity damages our industry’s reputation with advertisers at a time when where transparency has never been more important.
  • It reduces the efficacy of the ads we (digital marketers) serve.
  • It inflates our impact in a digital world.
  • The retailer pays out a healthy commission on sale with little or no incremental benefit.
  • In some cases, the retailer sees revenue driven by the programme and doesn’t question its source. They don't become more pro-active on the programme as a result.
  • The consumer sees discount ad after discount ad, each with poor copy. This affects the integrity of the brand.
  • The affiliate believes this behaviour is reasonable and replicates the campaign on other retailers, worsening the problem.
  • The coupon site scoops up the last click cookie, preventing any content site from earning a commission, harming their ability to monetise and removes the incentives for these content creators to do more.
  • It diminishes the value of the Affiliate Marketing in Australia to Advertisers and our colleagues in other channels.

A positive example of Brand + Discount bidding:

Please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely see the benefit in passing on Brand + Discount search terms to affiliates, when used tactically. A good example of this is Lenovo and Cuponation’s campaign which drives discount hungry consumers to a co-branded landing page if they don’t engage with Lenovo’s ad, which sits in the first position. The effect: The user doesn’t leak away as often and Lenovo, rather than their competitors gets the sale.

Figure 2 Lenovo winning the auction and working with Cuponation

Figure 2 Lenovo winning the auction and working with Cuponation

Cuponation's co-branded landing page

Figure 3 Cuponation's co-branded landing page

The solution:

  • Advertisers should consider bidding on brand + discount search terms. Removing the Affiliate PPC ads alone would push up the organic results and the affiliates with the best Search Engine Optimisation would get the sales, which doesn’t really solve the problem.
  • Programme managers should be checking the source of transactions from unknown sites as a matter of course to root out brand bidding.
  • Technology platforms should use tools like Brand Verity (if they don’t already) to identify brand bidding activity.
  • Share the URLs of repeat offenders between the publisher management teams of each network and take action taken against repeat offenders.

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